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Australia reopens offshore detention centre

13 February 2019

The Australian government has lost control of the parliament for the first time in nearly a century, losing a major vote on a bill to help evacuate critically ill refugees from offshore processing centers.

While opposition leader Bill Shorten has voiced support for the bill, the government has been advised the move would undermine the security of Australia's borders.

The government says the Christmas Island re-start will cost about $1.4 billion over four years.

He said he was confident anyone who was transferred to Australia would remain in detention while receiving treatment.

Prime minister Scott Morrison will speak at the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday - where he will argue only his government can protect Australians from local and global threats.

Scott Morrison says Labor should apologise for destroying the nation's border protection regime.

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Earlier this morning, Mr Morrison called a meeting of the National Security Committee after which he declared the Christmas Island detention facility will be reopened.

"What my job is is to make sure the beast doesn't wake up, but I can tell you Bill Shorten's given it a big poke... and he's done it willfully".

Under changes to the legislation, two doctors can recommend medical evacuations for sick asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.

The bill must be approved by the upper house to become law, but is likely to pass, as the Senate supported an earlier version a year ago.

"If they don't come, it will be because of the work and the decisions we are now taking and the actions we are putting in place", Morrison said.

"My job now is to ensure that the boats don't come", he told reporters at Parliament House.

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The prime minister denied his ramped up rhetoric played into the hands of people smugglers.

"It might be all fine and nice to talk about these nuances here in this courtyard", he said.

"I'm going to be engaged in very clear and direct messaging to anyone who thinks they should get on a boat", Mr Morrison said.

Meanwhile MP Kerryn Phelps, a key supporter of the bill, dismissed concerns that there will be an influx of new boat arrivals.

Under a harsh policy meant to deter asylum seekers from reaching Australia by boat, Canberra sent arrivals to Nauru and Papua New Guinea for processing and barred them from resettling in Australia.

"It's only the cohort who are now on Manus Island and Nauru who will benefit from legislation".

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At the time, Immigration Minister David Coleman said the centre would be kept in a state of "operational readiness" so it could be re-opened at short notice.

Australia reopens offshore detention centre